Review Date: Friday, June 24, 2011

Here In Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has declared that this week we review two D.C. Comics and one Marvel Comic that look like interesting summertime reading, so let's see how each of these issues fare:

Flashpoint: Deadman & The Flying Graysons #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
J.T. Krul: Writer
Mikel Janin: Art
Ulises Arreola: Colors
Among the many titles currently being published under the umbrella of DC's Flashpoint mega-event is issue #1 of a three-part mini-series entitled "Flashpoint: Deadman & The Flying Graysons." The issue is scripted by J.T. Krul with art by Mikel Janin and colors by Ulises Arreola. I reviewed not long ago issue #1 of the main five-issue Flashpoint mini-series. For the uninitiated, the premise of Flashpoint is that an enemy of Barry Allen/The Flash has managed to alter the reality of the DC superhero universe. The most significant change features Wonder Woman and Aquaman leading their respective armies in war against humanity, resulting in millions of lives lost in Western Europe. Many creative changes occur regarding the idntities and histories of numerous DC heroes.

Issue #1 of this three-part series pairs alternate realities for Dick Grayson/Robin with Boston Brand/Deadman. In this new world, Grayson never became Robin, instead teaming with his still-living parents in a traveling circus trapped in Europe while the war rages. Their fellow circus performers include a still-living Boston Brand performing as an egocentric acrobat and Dr. Fate, relegated in this new world to a sideshow magic act. Two sub-plots thread their way through this Flashpoint segment. One focuses on the changed personalities and interaction between our DC heroes who are now relegated to circus act status, while the second brings the world war to their insulated world. The issue concludes in a dramatic bridge to issue #2, in which Wonder Woman's troops arrive in seacrh of poor Dr. Fate, for a key reason which I won't reveal as a spoiler in this review.

I liked the kick-off Flashpoint issue that I reviewed last month, due to the entertaining potential that the alternate reality concept holds for DC readers. This latest series doesn't fail in that regard, continuing to give us some really fresh and creative changes to very familiar hero roles turned topsy-turvy in this dangerous new reality of superhero world war. One of the most intriguing elements of this series is the decision by writer J.T. Krul to construct personalities for Robin, Deadman and Dr. Fate completely different from their standard DC characters, thereby taking the alternate reality story concept even deeper than normal into the brave and often frightening new world that the Flashpoint series is constructing. So a definite thumbs-up recommendation to have some fun summertime light beach reading by diving into this "what if?" version of our favorite DC superheros.

Freedom Fighters #9
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti: Writers
Travis Moore: Pencils
Trevor Scott: Inks
Allen Passalaqua: Colors
DC's Freedom Fighters comic book title is currently up to issue #9. The Freedom Fighters superhero team consists of Native American hero Black Condor, Doll Man, Human Bomb, Phantom Lady, The Ray and team leader Uncle Sam. I had given a negative review to the first issue of the title and wanted to revisit it this month to see how the story quality is faring. The creative team consists of co-writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, penciler Travis Moore, inker Trevor Scott and colorist Allen Passalaqua.

The current issue is Part Nine of the ongoing multi-issue storyline entitled "American Nightmare," and presents three story segments. The first sub-plot consists of a detailed discussion among the team members on how best to assist Human Bomb in functioning on his own while the group tries to address an unclear but inferred ongoing break-up of the team. The mid-section of the issue shifts to standard superhero crimefighting fare, as Black Condor returns to his home in the Southwestern U.S. and assists his deputy sheriff cousin in crimefighting. The final third of the issue abruptly shifts the storytelling genre, as the team reassembles to fight bizarre alien-like creatures who invade the U.S. from a future timeline with the goal of killing millions of humans to affect supposedly historic events.

Unfortunately, the Freedom Fighters comic book title hasn't outgrown the series flaws and problems which were evident from the beginning of this comic book series. While the artwork is top notch, the story presentation is bizarrely jumbled. None of the three story sections connect in subject matter or transition with the others, rendering much of the plotline illogical even for a comic book world. The beginning of the story is confusing and would have been helped with a catch-up narrative updating new readers on the details of the ongoing group break-up. And the sudden dumping of readers in the third section of the issue into a weird future alien invasion is very jarring and just adds to an overall sense that someone is mailing-in the effort here, oddly cutting and pasting-together story ideas that just don't blend together in a one-issue storyline.
So unfortunately, a belated thumbs-down recommendation to pass on this uncomfortable storyline with an unfinished feel to it. There's lots of other entertaining DC comics on those new issues shelves at That's Entertainment for your summer reading enjoyment.

Ghost Rider #0.1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Rob Williams: Writer
Matthew Clark: Pencils
Sean Parsons: Inker
Robert Schwager: Colors
Marvel Comics is in the process of rebooting its well-known Ghost Rider character, with the publication of a prequel issue # 0.1 leading up to issue #1 of the new title. Fans of Ghost Rider are familiar with the story of motorcycle rider Johnny Blaze, who makes a deal with a demon that backfires, leaving him as the fire-wielding, skullblazing hero Ghost Rider. The new series is scripted by Rob Williams with pencils by Matthew Clark, inks by Sean Parsons and colors by Robert Schwager.

Prequel issue # 0.1 is entitled "Give Up The Ghost." The title is applicable, as Johnny is approached by a mysterious stranger named Adam who offers him the chance to be finally free of the skull-on-fire Ghost Rider demonic curse. After struggling throughout the story to make a decision, by issue's end Johnny takes the plunge, following Adam's instructions and seemingly ridding himself of the curse. Its also clear that Adam has not-so-good intentions regarding his purpose for helping Johnny, and that part of the deal is that some unknown person will be burdened with the relocated Ghost Rider curse.

I'm an old Ghost Rider fan and clearly remember the day when I bought that very first issue of Ghost Rider back in the good old comic book reading days. As such, I was very pleased with this latest take on the story universe of this cursed Marvel hero. The artwork is wonderful, with the motorcycle action scenes both plentiful and providing the reader with an impressive feel for the action and adventure. I was also impressed with writer Rob Williams's approach of building a storyline of mystery around the lifting-of-the-curse storythread. It should be a lot of fun in upcoming issues for readers to learn more about the mysterious Adam as well as the consequences to everyone on the lifting of the curse. Obviously, Johnny will be put in a situation in which he will have to take the curse back in order to free some poor soul, but the details of the story should be very entertaining.

So whether you're an old Ghost Rider fan like me or a newcomer to our favorite hell-on-wheels good guy, this issue and the upcoming new series promises a lot of summer reading heat wave entertainment!

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenged you to correctly tell us which letter of the alphabet is not included in the names of any of the 50 U.S. states. My fellow reviewer Dave LeBlanc correctly answered the question for fun, having seen this question on the same recent episode of Jeopardy that I did. We received a lot of correct entries (as well as a few incorrect ones), and our randomly-selected winner is (drumroll, please)...Kevin Browne, who correctly identified the letter Q as never popping-up in any names of the 50 states. Congrats to Kevin, who wins the first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

Let's try another summertime trivia contest this week. E-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com with the answer to the following question: What does the middle initial "S" stand for in President Harry S. Truman's name? As always, in the event of multiple correct entries, the winner of the first-prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment will be chosen via a random roll of the dice.

That's all for now, so have a great summer comic book reading week and see you again next week Here In Bongo Congo!!!


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